Month: May 2013

Al Jazeera’s Take on Catholic Problems

Choir entering Westminster“The problem is the monopolisation of power among old men who are unwilling to change any aspect of religion or matter of faith. Indeed, it’s the absence of women from all decisive and leadership roles that sets up the antiquated Vatican and other organised religions against progress.” (

The quote is from al Jazeera, the Arabic news service in Qatar, Monday, May 27. Aside from the fact I think this quote can also apply to American politics, and respect the author for having the courage to submit the article in an Islamic region and country, I have to ask some questions about the presence of this opinion in the world’s leading Arabic news source.

Aren’t most Arab speakers Islamic? Doesn’t Islam dramatically and violently represses full burkha in Gerassawomen? Aren’t women’s rights most limited in the Middle East? (Although if India doesn’t get it’s men under control by brutally punishing rape, it’s tying for top spot in my book.)

Al Jazeera isn’t wrong about the Catholic Church. But this editorial, condemning another religion while representing poster children for egregious discrimination against women (the Middle East and Islam) is disingenuous at best. It’s also totally offensive, as if the writer doesn’t realize the Western world is aware of Islam’s highly discriminatory policies—fully backed by husbands, fathers, brothers, and male-run governments in Islamic states. There’s a cliche here in the States: the pot calling the kettle black. It applies here.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read the editorial. But I decided instead to exercise my rights, and blog. Pass the tissue to someone not busy promoting every human’s value, and right to contribute to society to the degree their God-given gifts allow—regardless of the god in which they believe.

A Manuscript’s Hibernation

It’s been a busy spring. Almost a month in South America for manuscript three. The relaunch of the public platform (website, author photos, YouTube videos…). Four weekends away from my hermitage on writing or family matters. It seems I’ve done everything except write.

DSC01891Mr. Bear, a 400-pound cinnamon celebrating hibernation’s end outside my window last week.

My second manuscript begins a grueling disastrous calamitous bloody necessary professional edit in thirty days. I haven’t touched it in sixty. It’s been hibernating, like Mr. Bear. Resting, like a yeasty dough. And like that dough, it now must be kneaded.

To maintain some semblance of competance, I’m sweeping it to prepare for the editor. Ignoring it for two months was the best thing I could do.

(In case you’re wondering, ignoring it is a luxury. By the end of July, I’ll have two professionally edited manuscripts, and a third almost complete, ready for professional edit by year’s end. It’s important to distinguish between a professional and a self-edit, BTW. If and when that publishing-contract phone call comes from my agent, I’ll have enough lead time to market all my work well, rather than being overwhelmed by churning out more AND market simultaneously. I like a head start in life.)

The concept of healthy distance applies to writing. I’m not catching all logic flaws and grammar errors—I birthed this 82,000-word document, and love it, so I’m almost as immune to its problems as I am to the imperfections in my children. (They don’t have any.) But the fact that the prose has slipped into my deep subconscious allows me to see things more clearly, ask questions, investigate structure, and most importantly, look for options. Is there a better way to frame this scene? Am I telling instead of showing? Is the sense of smell present in this chapter? Am I being repetitively redundant? (That’s a joke.) Questions I couldn’t ask immediately after finishing the document flood my mind now, and I dissect with surgical skill, knowing the blood will REALLY flow in a month or so.

My advice? If you can, let your work rest. Read favorite writers, see good movies, get exercise, hang with family and friends. Then reapproach the work as a neighbor, not a mother. I suspect you’ll be proud, but able to make constructive changes to create a more professional, compelling story.

How do you approach your self-edit? Do you believe a self-edit is possible? I’m interested, as always!

My Peaceful Coexistance with Hashtags—I am So Confused

I’ve been stalking the wily hashtag (pound sign—#) on twitter. People half my age are brought into the world understanding hashtags, while I am more of the Underwood-typewriter generation. <sigh> I have randomly scattered tweets with hashtags sensible to me, only recently discovering I could’ve better used those characters.


I understood the hashtag’s purpose—to link information about related, desirable topics, making the subjects easier to find—but didn’t understand which hastags were “real” and which ones waste a precious character (leaving only 139).

I didn’t know to omit spaces: #Women of the Wall should be #WomenoftheWall, or #WoW, for instance. And discovering abbreviations took time, but they’re valuable. Why use fifteen characters (#WomenoftheWall) when I can use four (#WoW)?

Hashtags ARE important. If you write about antiquities, lost World Heritage Sites, and the Middle East, you target your market tightly. Making posts easier to find is pivotal to building the essential public platform acquisitions editors and publishers demand.

Believing you might be as confused by hashtags as I am/was/will be, I’d like to suggest these sites explaining more about hashtags. If you know of others, I’m very interested. I suspect my days of stalking the elusive hashtag are far from over. — Twitter’s take on hashtags. Providing basic information, this is a great place to start. — Twitter’s recommended listing of in-voque hashtags. I like this site because it lets me know what others are tagging, and broadens my hashtag horizons. — This general summary of hastags is very user-friendly.



Why I Love Goodreads

If twitter is speed-dating for hermits ( http: // ), then Goodreads ( http: // ) is a slowly developed romance. I don’t participate as often as I’d like or should, but every time I read a review on Goodreads, or articulate what I think about something I’ve read, I appreciate the site more.


For one thing, the interaction is lengthy enough so I get a sense of other participants. Everyone is bound by a love of books, so the demographic is consistent with my interests (unlike, say, twitter, where pretty crass individuals doing really strange things believe the world needs to know). Recommendations from a book-loving congregation enable me to target my reading better—there are only so many hours in a day!—and I have quickly learned whose referrals to trust.

Goodreads also has a palpable sense of community, and the group of which I’m a member (Boomer Lit) actively promotes authors’ writing to those of us who remember the Vietnam war while occasionally wearing Birkenstocks with socks. (I confess I do, but only in the privacy of my office.)

I believe Goodreads is a valuable tool in the author’s tool box. It provides a context in which to see what others are reading—and why. It enables the author to develop a community as he or she prepares to release a book, building interest among people who genuinely might buy the work. And it’s an educated, thoughtful stopover, a Sherlockian bolthole in the craziness of the world-wide web.

Take a look, and I’d love your thoughts about what you find. Are there other pockets of literary civilization you enjoy while surfing the net? Or places you believe valuable to an aspiring or established author? I’m interested. Really I am.

Not A Drop to Drink

Although Not A Drop to Drink is the title of my first manuscript, this blog is about something far more important: the connection between drought and war. Almost every nation on earth faces a water shortage that will alter life as we know it. The U.S. is not exempt. This weekend’s Times of Israel ran an article ( from which I’d like to share.

“Some look at the upheaval in Syria through a religious lens…some see it through a social prism…and others look at the eroding boundaries of state in Syria and other parts of the Middle East as a direct result of the sins of Western hubris and Colonialism. Professor Arnon Sofer has no qualms with any of these claims and interpretations. But the upheaval in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, he says, cannot be fully understood without also taking two environmental truths into account: soaring birthrates and dwindling water supply.” Sofer is head of the Chaikin geo-strategy group, a longtime lecturer at the IDF’s top defense college, and head of the National Defense College Research Center.

The article goes on to state population in the Middle East has twice doubled in sixty years. (Funny how births escalate in countries where women’s rights don’t include birth control—my comment.) According to the U.S. Department of Defense, while the effects of climate change alone do not cause conflict, the report states, “they may act as accelerants of instability or conflict in parts of the world.” As with most of the region, Syria is now eighty-five-percent desert. It’s ample waterways are running dry because its upriver neighbor, Turkey, keeps much of that water. Damascus, being destroyed as Assad and Syrian rebels fight to dominate nothing (, was once a fabled oasis. But no more.

from the bottom of Nahal ZinWadi Zin, near the kibbutz Sde Boker

And water shortages don’t just make people thirsty. Think about it: water powers hydroelectroic plants that generate electricity. So reduced water supply reduces electricity as well. From 2007-2008, Sofer said, more than 160 Syrian villages were abandoned and 250,000 farmers relocated to Damascus and other cities. Residents dug 25,000 illegal wells in and around Damascus, pushing the water table lower and the salinity of the water higher. Add a million-plus refugees for the perfect environment of war and unrest.

And war broke out in Syria’s most-parched regions—“in Daraa [in the south] and in Kamishli in the northeast,” Sofer said. “Those are two of the driest places in the country.” Writing in the New York Times from Yemen on Thursday, Thomas Friedman embraced a similar thesis, noting that the heart of the al-Qaeda activity in the region corresponded with the areas most stricken by drought. While Assad seems to clear a path to an escape route from Syria, Egypt appears to bolster it’s progression south—toward countries using the Nile Delta before the water crosses into Egypt. Detect a trend?

Can we afford to ignore the correlation of drought and war, or will we awaken to the impending threat before there’s Not A Drop to Drink?[subscribe2]